New Mexico Craft Beer

Craft Beer’s Boom Time

New Mexico Craft Beer

Bosque Brewing Company, Albuquerque.
Photo by Gabriella Marks.

Once the domain of hobbyists and hole-in-the-wall taprooms, craft beer has a firm grip on American — and New Mexican — taste buds.

By Ashley M. Biggers

THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT OVERFLOWS WITH more than 60 breweries — enough that it is 11th in the country in breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Association. Breweries ferment in every corner of the state, not just in the middle Río Grande Valley, but also in Farmington, Carlsbad, and Roswell, to name a few. Destinations like the Draft Station in Santa Fe have some 25 breweries' creations on tap — meaning flights can double as taste journeys across New Mexico.

This creative state doesn't just excel in quantity; it tops lists for quality, too. The state's breweries medal heavily at competitions like Great American Beer Fest and the World Beer Cup. "We outperform similarly sized states by a long shot," says John Gozigian, executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild.

New Mexico breweries have found a niche, excelling in not only hopped-up varieties but also those exploring hops' aroma and flavors. In a state known for its intensely flavored cuisine (chile, chile, and more chile), it's not a stretch to arrive at intensely flavored beverages that can stand up to all that spice and still punch through. A New Mexico brewery has won the National IPA Challenge four years running, with Bosque Brewing Company (bosquebrewing.com) and La Cumbre Brewing (lacumbrebrewing.com), both of Albuquerque, alternating the mantle.

The New Mexico Brewers Guild has given the state the moniker "the frontier of beer," a nickname well-earned, as its breweries push flavor boundaries. New England–style IPA is the new darling of craft breweries across the country, and many of the state's creators have their own takes on it — including Bombs Away Beer Company (bombsawaybeer.com) of Albuquerque, a relative newcomer that has earned quick attention. Here, five breweries illustrate the industry's breadth and distinctive qualities.

New Mexico Craft Beer

Santa Fe Brewing Company owner Brian Lock.
Photo by Sergio Salvador

SANTA FE BREWING CO.,
SANTA FE AND ALBUQUERQUE
santafebrewing.com

Launched in 1988, Santa Fe Brewing Co. is the state's original craft brewery. What started with a pale ale has become a multistate operation based at the terminus of the Turquoise Trail just outside of Santa Fe. (There's also an Albuquerque taproom.) Now owned by Brian Lock with brewmaster Bert Boyce at the helm, Santa Fe Brewing Co. has eight flagship beers, including the easy-drinking Happy Camper IPA and the Chicken Killer Barley Wine Ale. The brewery planted its own hops farm in 2013, cultivating four varieties of estate-grown hops for one wet hop beer each fall. Even this standardbearer of the New Mexico beer scene continues to innovate with its aptly named Los Innovadores barrelaged sours made in its own underground barrel-cave.


New Mexico Craft Beer

Marble Brewery
Photo by Sergio Salvador

MARBLE BREWERY,
ALBUQUERQUE
marblebrewery.com

Marking its 10th anniversary in 2018, Marble Brewery is a headliner in the Duke City beer scene. It set the stage — literally, its patio rocks with music most summer weekend nights — with a downtown brewery and has since expanded to east- and west-side taprooms. Its six classics include a much-lauded red ale and double-white, and its seasonal specialties have a strong following, including the bourbon-barrel-aged reserve ale. In 2017, it medaled twice at the Great American Beer Fest for its Cholo Stout, for which it earned gold, and its pilsner, for which it grabbed bronze. In 2014, Marble earned the top spot from Great American Beer Festival as Small Brewery and Small Brewery Brewer of the Year.


New Mexico Craft Beer

Boxing Bear Brewing Co.
Photo by Sergio Salvador

BOXING BEAR BREWING CO.,
ALBUQUERQUE
boxingbearbrewing.com

Nestled along the Río Grande in northwest Albuquerque, this brewery flew under the radar for several years. It splashed on the scene in 2016 as Great American Beer Fest's Mid-Size Brewpub and Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year. It's a perennial medal winner for its IPAs. The Featherweight Session IPA has earned national honors, while the Bear Knuckle won the hotly contested New Mexico IPA Challenge in 2017. The homegrown brewery — its head and assistant brewers are both native New Mexicans — is also known for its collaborations; they once went in with Iconik Coffee Roasters on their Coffee Chocolate Milk Stout.


New Mexico Craft Beer

Taos Mesa Brewing.
Photo by Gabriella Marks

TAOS MESA BREWING,
TAOS SKI VALLEY
taosmesabrewing.com

This brewery is notable as much for its entertainment as for its beer. Taos Mesa Brewing keeps a dozen of its craft beers on tap, including Kolsch .45 and Sabor del Sol Pilsner. Set in the wide expanse of a sagebrush mesa with stunning mountain views, its mothership has become a go-to destination for live music in northern New Mexico, from its outdoor amphitheater built in the style of neighboring sustainable Earthships to the stage inside its quirky Quonset hut. The schedule features regional touring groups, and its weekend-long Music on the Mesa festival rocks each summer. The brewery has a downtown Taos taproom, as well as one just off the slopes in Taos Ski Valley.


New Mexico Craft Beer

Abbey Brewing Company.
Photo by Sergio Salvador

ABBEY BREWING COMPANY,
ABIQUIU AND ALBUQUERQUE
abbeybrewing.biz

In 2003, Christ in the Desert, north of Abiquiu, became the first American monastery with a commercial brewing operation. Although the venture is new stateside, it follows a monastic brewing tradition that's been part of the Benedictine order for 1,300 years. Monk's Ale, introduced in January 2005, was first off the line, which now includes five core ales. The monks grow and harvest their own hops — the variety is indigenous to northern New Mexico — and have a small-scale brewing operation on the monastery grounds for seasonal specialties. However, its partnership with Sierra Blanca Brewery means most beers are brewed and bottled at that large-scale brewery's Moriarty operation. The bottles are widely distributed across the state, and the beers frequently pop up as guest taps at other breweries. Abbey Brewing Company's Albuquerque taproom, Monk's Corner, pours fresh pints, and occasionally, guests will find a monk behind the bar.